Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'I'm Ready to Come Home,' Canadian on Death Row Hangs Hopes on Liberal Government

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'I'm Ready to Come Home,' Canadian on Death Row Hangs Hopes on Liberal Government

Article excerpt

Ottawa raises hopes for death-row inmate

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DEER LODGE, Mont. - A Canadian on death row in Montana has been living on borrowed time since admitting he murdered two young men more than three decades ago, but he says he has renewed hope he might be able to return home with the support of Justin Trudeau's government.

"I'm ready to come home," said Ronald Smith, 59, in an interview with The Canadian Press last week at Montana State Prison. "If you're willing to take me back, I'm willing to come home,"

Smith, who is originally from Red Deer, Alta., has been on death row since 1983 for fatally shooting Harvey Madman Jr. and Thomas Running Rabbit while he was high on LSD and alcohol near East Glacier, Mont.

It's a statement Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion issued in February following a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that is giving Smith new hope.

"If the government of Canada does not ask for clemency for every Canadian facing the death penalty, how can we be credible when we ask for clemency in selective cases or countries?" Dion asked. "We must end this incoherent double standard. Canada opposes the death penalty and will ask for clemency in each and every case, no exceptions."

That's a marked shift from the former Conservative government, which initially decided against seeking clemency for Smith or any other multiple murderer facing the death penalty in a democratic country. A court ruling later forced the government to abandon the policy but Smith's lawyer accused it of "treachery" for its handling of a clemency hearing in 2012.

"I'm considerably more optimistic," Smith said. "I'm considerably more positive about the Canadian government becoming involved at least, and with their involvement I think it bodes well for me."

Smith, who will become a great-grandfather next year, hasn't changed much over the years. His red hair is still shoulder length and the only grey is in his moustache.

Back when he was first charged, he refused a plea deal that would have seen him get a life sentence and instead asked for the death penalty. …

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